The other night another single mother friend of mine and I were having a glass of wine. Both of our kids were with our exes and we needed to get out. We discussed many topics but as with most women who get together, the conversation turned to dating and sex. We both agreed that dating as a single mom is the hardest thing ever. Because we both have full custody of our kids, 85 percent of our time is with the kids. With meeting new people limited to the utterly dissatisfying and dishonest world of online dating, we know our chances are limited in finding a mate. However, my friend had met someone, and had been dating him for a while, but had not introduced them to her kids. She wanted to know my opinion on a matter regarding sex.
Should single moms let their boyfriend sneak in at night?
Honestly, my reaction was swift and stark.
No way, not in a million years, have you lost your mind?
But as she defended her decision, she had let him sneak in a few times, I started to hear another side to the issue that I had not considered because I had not been presented with the dilemma.
I am very anti-introduce-my-kids to anyone at all. I have been very honest about not wanting to marry again and I think that getting my kids deeply involved with someone who may not be around for life could be hard on them. But my friend wants a full-time relationship. She wants the love and affection of a man and, after they decide it is long-term, she will introduce him to her kids.
In the meantime, she wants to see him more than every other weekend. He, apparently, wants the same. So after her kids, who are both under the age of 10, go to bed, she lets him in the house and they escape to her bedroom for television, talking and anything else two healthy, attractive adults want to do.
I understood her point but I was also very hard and fast on mine. So what should be the answer? How do we make that decision? What if that decision is wrong?
Despite her arguments, my stance stays the same. There are too many variables that can go wrong. Especially with young children. What if they wake up and come to your room? Even with a locked door, they will knock, maybe cry. Then you have to get up, quickly get out of your door without them seeing him and tend to them for however long it takes to get them back to bed.
"While discretion is recommended, lying and sneaking are not. If you think extramarital sex is okay, when questions arise you should be able to explain to your children (in an age-appropriate manner) why and under what conditions. If you can't, then don't do it. Behave as you want your kids to when they reach early adulthood." JoAnn Magdoff, psychotherapist, New York City
I, personally, am so not ready to explain sex to my kids. Especially sex outside of marriage and especially not in the middle of the night while a stranger to them struggles to get dressed and out of the house without causing more issues.
Even if I were to meet a man and fall madly in love, I still would not sneak him in at night. As a single parent, my time with them is for them. If something happens, I am the only one who can take care of them. Having the stress of "being caught" with someone in the home is very unappealing to me.
My friend's argument is also valid and from a completely different place than mine is. She has young kids as well but feels that she is a better mother now that she has someone who pays attention to her and makes her feel like a cared-for woman.
"Magdoff warns against using your kids as an excuse to avoid intimacy, putting them between you and your social life. In other words, sometimes the weekend away is more important than the basketball game." JoAnn Magdoff, psychotherapist, New York City
She thinks that even if her kids get up in the middle of the night and come knock on her door, that she can handle the situation without exposing them to a conversation she is not ready to have. And, she pointed out, if she does have to sit her kids down and explain the situation, she is at least being honest and teaching them that mommy has a life too and it may include another person she cares for.
She feels alive again, she says. Just having the attention and the care of a man she is attracted to makes her happier during the day and gives her something to look forward to the few times he has come over late at night. She feels like she does not have to put her life on hold just because she has the kids for long stretches at a time.
I don't know if she convinced me to change my mind at all but she certainly gave me something to think about.
The bottom line is that every mom has to make her own decisions about her personal life, how it relates to her children and the people she allows to be in it. Balancing is the hardest thing as single parents. The responsibilities can be overwhelming. It makes sense that we would want another person in our lives to care for us. But we have to be ready to explain things to our kids if something goes wrong. Because they are the ones we are responsible for.
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